FAQ

What is Rock, Paper Scissors?
RPS is the world’s most popular method decision-making process.

How do you play Rock Paper Scissors?
After an agreed set of “primes” players throw one of three possible throws Rock (closed fist), Paper (hand flat) or Scissors (top two index fingers extended). Rock beats Scissors, Scissors beats Paper and Paper beats Rock. For further detail please consult the World RPS Society’s Official Rules of play.

Who invented RPS?
This is a very difficult question. Every culture seems to lay claim in one way or another to having first invented RPS. We know that Scissors were invented 500 years ago in Italy, but some say that the throw evolved from “blade” which would pre-date scissors by a significant margin.

Is it true that RPS is played all over the World?
Absolutely! RPS has enjoyed a penetration level and popularity that makes it one of the most popular games on the planet. In fact, more people have played RPS than any other game in the world.

This game goes by so many different names which one should I call it?
Officially, it is known as Rock Paper Scissors or its short form RPS. Casually, it is also known in parts of the world as Jenken, Jan Ken Pon, Roshambo, Shnik Shnak Shnuk, Ching Chong Chow, Farggling, Scissors Paper Stone, Scissors Rock Paper, among many others.

Isn’t it kind of crazy to have a game that goes by so many names?
Indeed! The European and Americans “football’ debate is minor compared to this. One of the mandates of the World RPS Society is name harmonization, so we would encourage all players to use the term Rock Paper Scissors or its short form RPS. We feel that this is the best way of helping the sport to grow in the future.

Does Rock crush Scissors or is Scissors dulled by Rock?
There is no clear answer to that question. Younger and aggressive (or American) players tend to favour the Rock crushing Scissors view. More liberal-minded players take the view that scissors are dulled by the Rock. The World RPS Society created a task force in 1987 with a hope of eventually resolving the issue but it has been locked in debate and we no longer hold much hope of quick resolution.

Why does paper cover rock?
While not exactly intuitive, the symbolic meaning of paper covering a rock dates back to ancient Chinese culture. When a petition was made to the Emperor, the petition was signified by a rock.Upon making a decision the Emperor would have his servants place a sheaf of paper either over or under the rock. If the sheaf was placed under the rock it would signify acceptance of the petition. If the sheaf was placed on top of the rock it signified denial of the petition. Over time the symbolic image of paper covering a rock became synonymous with defeat.

Is it true that Martial Arts is a derivative of RPS?
Yes! RPS was played in the Orient and it is known fact that Martial Arts developed as players upset at the outcomes of certain RPS matches, chose violet action with their fists. That is why many refer to RPS as the Father of all Martial Arts.

My question isn’t answered here, what do I do?
go the World RPS Society Members Bullboard. There are many experts who frequent the site and are always very helpful in answering questions.

Are there really tournaments?
Yes. While the World Championships have not run since 2010, many other tournaments are held all over the world, check your local city guide for upcoming tournaments in your area.

What is the World RPS Society?
The World RPS Society is the worldwide governing body of the sport of RPS. It provides overall direction, guidance and policy control with a goal of promoting the sport to a wider audience. It is supported by a standard operational branch, local, regional, national and international office structure with offices in most countries around the globe. It’s World Headquarters is located in Toronto, Canada at Trinity Square Plaza. (Soon to be moving to Trinity Square Towers). It plans and executes, tournaments, conferences, symposiums, retreats and get togethers all over the globe.

Who is Wojek Smallsoa?
Wojek Smallsoa was the last of the great Chairmen of the World RPS Society’s Steering Committee. He held this distinction since 1987 until his death in 2011.  He was also the author of what has been known as the definitive strategic book on RPS “The Trio of Hands”. To most he is known as the “Father of Modern RPS”, this is in sharp contrast to numerous media reports would have labeled him as the “Godfather of RPS”.

Can RPS be played when there is nothing to be decided?
Never. According to English laws dating back as far as 1842, RPS matches may only be played to make a decision on something. However, often frivolous excuses are made up in order to play. Due to the ensuing public outrage, the law was later amended to include RPS games for “honour”. Since the inception of the World RPS Society the vast majority of games have indeed been for honour.

But, isn’t Rock Paper Scissors just a game of random chance?
No. The game is often played by novices as a game of chance. However, the true beauty and complexity of an RPS match becomes clear when advanced strategies are employed.

Don’t you just throw Rock, Paper Scissors once to decide something?
Some indeed do, they are commonly referred to as lightning throws and are used in pedestrian situations where time is an issue. However, all World RPS matches consist of a minimum “best of 3” round, and three rounds per game. Some games have gone so far as to play “best of 105”, but the current President of the World RPS Society refers to these marathon-style matches as “silly, demeaning to the sport and frankly boring”.

Is there such a thing as Dynamite in RPS?
No. Please refer to “The Myth of Dynamite Exposed” article in our Think Three section for more complete exploration.

After how many “primes” do you “shoot”? (Is it 1,2 shoot or is it 1,2,3 shoot?)
This is a common problem which can occur when two decision makers meet for the first time. Due to the widespread appeal of this game, many players bring differing local customs or regional differences that can even occur amongst local players (often erroneously referred to as European rules [2 prime shoot] or North American rules [3 prime shoot]. The best advice is always to ask your opponent how they shoot BEFORE you begin play otherwise you risk showing your opponent your first move (to avoid certain unscrupulous players from taking advantage of the confusion). Should you determine that your “opening prime” differs from that of your opponent, it is always proper ettiquette to offer to play the opening prime of whoever is considered to have “local turf”.

How do you determine “local turf” when, for instance, you meet another enthusiast on holiday?
This is a good example where common sense and manners can be your guide. Should one vacationer happen to have a friend or relative who is a local then that person can lay claim to a “local linkage” and has the right to request the use of their standard “opening prime”. Should no one have a local linkage (a common situation at Southern or Island resorts) then a query can be made to any passingby local resident. They are usually more than happy to relay the standard “local custom” and may even wish to join in should they be an enthusiast themself! (Note: Many enthusiasts often employ this technique simply as a manner to meet local people while away on holiday which in many cases develop into lifelong friendships and/or valuable worldwide contacts).

What is “the zone”?
The zone is a term developed by RPS players to describe the exhilarating feeling of being at one with the game and knowing your opponent’s next several moves. It is similar to what Buddhists refer to as “Nirvana”.

I’ve seen groups of three or more people playing RPS. Is that possible? I thought it was just a two person game?
Although the elegance is somewhat reduced (due to the increase in the number of stalemates) having more than two people playing (called “field play”) can add a different level of challenge to the match. The most common way to engage in field play is via elimination. Now each player in the field must anticipate the moves of each separate player much quicker. Tactics include the “Holdback or Ducking” where a player will intentionally put in what they believe to be a stalemate move in the hopes that the other players end up duking it out and eliminate each other until the “Duker” is left only to fight against one other person. Other players prefer to be more aggressive in order to “control the field” and set the tone for the style of play . This is known as “strong-arming the field” and as a tactic can lead to crushing effects.

My grade 3 child has been learning about RPS in school (to teach probability theory). Will this improve their performance at tournaments?
No, in fact it may reduce their competitive edge significantly and stunt future development in the game. RPS is not about probabilities, it is a match of wits, craft and ingenuity. The World RPS Society recommends contacting your local branch of the Junior RPS-sters for your young prodigies.

Any words of advice on breaking out of “mirror plays”?
Mirror plays or stalemates occur when two competitors reach the zone (see above) at the same time and the result can be frustrating to intermediate players. This is the one time when sheer force of will in breaking out of the zone (often referred to as “edge play”) can work to your advantage. This reversal will lead your opponent into a false sense of your next move. The art is in not letting your opponent be aware of your “zone-breaking”, as they technically will have the advantage at this point. Knowing after how many repeats to enter a zone-breach typically separates the advanced and championship player.

How are the locations for RPS Tournaments decided?
Oddly enough, the locations are determined by drawing straws. Originally it was decided by RPS, however the fierce competition between the LOCs (Local Organising Committees) resulted in certain unnamed local clubs holding back their best competitors from the actual tournaments, in order to gain the advantage in competing for the allocation of the game locations and thereby secure the financially lucrative tourism benefits. This downgraded the level of play in the tournaments and generated more excitement for the allocation competitions than the RPS World Championships themselves. Thus, in a hotly debated meeting of the World RPS Steering Committee in 1985, the use of RPS was outlawed in the allocation proceedings. In a rare display by the retired veterans of the Steering Committee, this decision was determined by a boldly executed Scissor Sandwich over an Avalanche (see Gambits). This momentous decision resulted in what was considered to be one of the most outstanding matches of the eighties and ironically happened behind closed doors away from the teaming throngs of RPS professionals and enthusiasts waiting outside the committee chamber.

When in a RPS match against a perceived psychic what is the best strategy to adhere to?
This is rarely encountered, but should you find yourself in this situation, we would recommend that you practice your throws while thinking of the name of another throw. Instead of thinking of it by its rightful name think of it by the throw that beats it. Therefore, throw scissors- think rock, throw rock – think paper, etc. This results in the psychic “hearing” your intention to play a certain throw, they will react and throw the throw that beats it, all the while you are actually throwing the throw that beats your opponent’s. Practice it enough and it will become second nature.One caveat, this effect may become permanent and affect your playing style professionally.
– Submitted by Stanley Key

Is it standard procedure to do the “motions” (i.e., scissors cutting the paper, or paper covering rock)?
The RPS Steering Committee made a ruling on this very issue in the late 80s. It was once common practice to “ritualize the win”, as it was called, but unfortunately for a promising young player it was disastrous. In a hotly contested semi-final round Mustafa Nwenge of Kenya pulled a scissors and had the ligments in his index finger crushed by the overzealous rock of a Swedish contestant. Needless to say, the RPS Steering Committee ruled out ritualized wins for professional play. Sadly, Mustafa was never able to play competitively again, but we have been informed that he is in very hot demand as a motivational speaker.
– Submitted by Mike and Kim of Roanoke, Virginia

Do you feel that the Simpsons episode where Bart plays RPS with his sister Lisa and thinks to himself good old rock, nothing beats that… has increased the use of Rock?
Funny you should mention that. The RPS Public Relations Department recently issued a study entitled “The Effect of Recent Media Coverage on RPS Throws” which made many astounding discoveries, among them:

  • Occurrence of Rock has risen by over .3% since the airing of the famous Simpsons episode
  • Use of RPS in restaurants decreased by 70-80% in the 2 years following the release of the film “Alive” (where RPS is used to decide who gets to eat the fat guy’s leg).
  • Use of RPS in the television show “Ally McBeal”, still doesn’t make the idea of unisex office bathrooms very believable.
  • Clarences famous loss in Surviver reduced the use of Rock by players of larger size by 20%

– Submitted by Leah McAllister

Another technique is to throw an unknown (example: a Texas Longhorn hand position)…
Stop right there…. Utilizing nonexistent moves such as the “Texas Longhorn” A.K.A. “Hawaiian wave/hang loose sign” or hundreds of other such spurious throws has always been viewed as a reprehensible offense in most RPS circles. If it isn’t enough that we are still living under the cloud of confusion/debate/outrage that the notion of dynamite has caused, introducing other such moves into the trinity only serves to underscore the dangerous effect that experimenting with phantom throws can cause. Dealing with the constantly growing pool of new throws keeps the Theoretical Throws Committee one of the most active in the World RPS Society.Understanding that your intention was probably of a humorous rather than a malicious nature does not exonerate yourself in the least. The only purpose these throws serve is to deliberately unsettle the novice player through the illusion of some arcane knowledge. Many a novice player has turned off of the game as a result of such Bully Play. Years and years ago, certain local chapters employed such methods as a hazing ritual with prospective new members. This lead to many complaints from irate parents who railed at the World RPS Society as it was perceived that we were taking advantage of the fact that entry into the organization was considered to be positive step forward in the lives of many individuals.

If it isn’t intimidating enough to make contact with a local branch when you are a complete novice, but to have to deal with a player such as yourself is simply asking for too much strength of character from most novice players. You may not know this but RPS has helped many a shy person gain a positive self-image and can be used as a confidence building technique for those lacking basic social skills.

Please understand that what you are doing has many levels of problems associated with it and the World RPS Society has been working hard to clean up its image but we require your help too.

For a more complete discussion of this issue, please visit your local chapter and ask for our pamphlet entitled “RPS In The Nineties: Not Just Political Correctness But Common Sense”.
– Submitted by Kent Folsom

In my youth, the winner of RPS was allowed to inflict corporal punishment to the loser by holding the opponent’s arm, and smacking the underside of the forearm with two fingers.
We have found two main holdouts in the “Corporal Punishment” arena. They are 1) AvT’s and (2) Thrill Seekers: Political correctness aside, using punishment games as a training vehicle has waxed and waned in popularity off and on throughout the last century. Its use as an “Aversion Therapy” (or AvT) has been discredited time and time again through our quarterly adhoc psychological roundtable discussions, but sadly it is still in use by misguided parents seeking to “force” improvement upon young prodigies.The Steering Committee has fostered development of an outreach program which consists of a staffed traveling van. We are concentrating our “anti-thrill seeking” efforts in two key A.O.C’s (areas of concern), that being underground sadomasochist clubs and schoolyards. While we have achieved a certain level of success in the schoolyards (at least, it seems, until the van leaves), the S+M Community continues to resist our efforts.
– Submitted by LJ, Fayetteville, NC

I once heard somewhere that rock represented power, paper represented money and I can’t remember what scissors represents.
A very good question, but unfortunately one with far too many answers. Since most cultures lay claim to some form of RPS it is very difficult to pin down any consensus.However, here is a summary of the most common abstract meanings of the throws:

Rock – Power, Strength, Aggression, Nature
Paper – Passivity, Stealth, Wisdom (money sometimes as well), Literacy
Scissors – Deviousness, Ingenuity, Evil, Technology

The list could likely go on forever, but from our experience those are
them. In terms of the psychological roles that the elements play in a game of
RPS, it is usually agreed that R = Aggressive, P = Passive, S = Devious